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Getting Fresh! with Dan"The Produce Man" ®

Cabbage Audio Version

The cabbage display on the produce stand is not the section of the department that gets the most action. Cabbage is a moderate mover with many customers asking for “half heads.” But if the common veggie eater like yourself knew how much cabbage you really ate, you’d be surprised. You see, the cabbage family has many brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins etc. The botanical term is Brassica, which is known as Mustard, which is called cruciferae or cruciferous because the flower on the plant resembles a crucifix. It gets pretty deep so lets cover the bare bones.

Within the cabbage family we find Brussels Sprouts, kale, collards, kohlrabi, bok choy, broccoli and cauliflower. All of which are very high in cancer fighting phytochemicals, which are plant compounds with health-promoting qualities such as lycopene and Indoles, along with antioxidants such as vitamin E, vitamin C, or beta carotene, that protect cells from the damaging effects of oxidation. Recent studies show that Red Cabbage helps in the reduction of certain plaque build ups in the brain that cause Alzheimer’s. The Produce for Better health Foundation has told us for several years now to not only eat 5 to 9 servings of fruit & vegetables a day, but to mix up the colors. Well in this case it is the pigments called anthocyanins that make up the blue, purple and red in our fruit & veggie mix. These beneficial compounds are significant members of the flavenoid class of plant nutrients. 36 anthocyanins have been discovered by Agrigultural Research Scientists (ARS) in Red Cabbage, 8 of them never detected before. Savoy cabbage contains vitamin A and the Cabbage family as a whole contains phytochemicals called indoles that help inhibit stomach, breast and colon cancers.

Needless to say cruciferous vegetables make a great portion of your five to nine a day that we’ve been working very hard to achieve. At the same time, we are well aware of the fact that some of these cabbage patch kids get a bad rap, most of which stems from the old days when folks would boil them down in salted water ‘til they were mush. The whole house would stink, everyone in the neighborhood wished there was something called the EPA that they could call, and you had this big pile of steaming hot ‘stuff” on your plate. Well my friends, those days are long over. Somewhere in the ‘70’s folks started to figure out that if you lightly steamed your veggies, they would still have a bit of a crunch, taste great, stink less, and retain the nutritional content. Then of course most of these veggies are just fine eaten raw or even juiced.

With St. Patrick’s Day close at hand, lets take a look at the common cabbage. This is one veggie that you either love or hate. Three common cabbages seen on the produce stand are the green round head, which by the way, has many varieties within itself, the red or

purple head and the mildly crisp and tender Savoy or curly cabbage. Don’t pass up the fresh cut packaged section. In a large produce department you will find several cuts of both red and green cabbage along with a mixture of both with shredded carrots.

This is a very convenient way to use cabbage because you don’t have to buy a whole head, it’s clean and ready to use, which means all the work is done for you, it also fits better in the refrigerator.

So for your St. Patrick’s Day Feast you have many choices. Personally I am not a corned beef eater. I just don’t like it, never did. So it’s just cabbage for me. In fact I was once told by a true Irishman (that’s a man from Ireland for those of you in the PC crowd) that in Ireland the traditional St. Patrick’s Day meal is made up of ham or bacon, cabbage and potatoes. So corned beef and cabbage is… well, as American as apple pie.

Stuffed cabbage leaves are another way to have your corned beef and cabbage, but preparing leaves for stuffing has always been a chore. A customer at the market offered this tip many cabbage seasons ago. Pierce the stem end of the cabbage head with a large two prong fork and place the entire head in a pot of boiling water holding on to the fork. As the cabbage begins to blanche, start cutting the leaves from the stem one by one. This softens the leaves just enough to be able to roll up your favorite stuffing without the cabbage breaking or tearing. Continue this process until you get to the heart where the leaves become too small. At that point chop the heart up into small shreds and add it to your stuffing.

When selecting cabbage in the store, look for firm heavy heads. The heavier the cabbage head, the more compact it will be. The lighter the cabbage head the more puffy and less compact it will be. A pale green color with vibrant leaves wrapping around it are signs of a fresh head. Keep away from yellow wrapper leaves and brown stem butts. Round cabbage will be full green in color while a more flattened squatty cabbage will be mostly white with a green tinge. Red cabbage is always compact and should be deep burgundy in color. Avoid blackened flabby leaves.
Whatever your meal consists of don’t reserve cabbage for just St. Patrick’s Day. Add shreds of red cabbage to your salads or make a light coleslaw using a combo of shredded green and red cabbage, carrots and a little mayo or soy mayo, a teaspoon of lemon juice and a few drops of honey.